MIAMI – The Braves trailed NL East leader Washington by 5-1/2 games before Wednesday, with only 13 games left on Atlanta’s schedule. That meant that a wild-card berth and a one-game playoff against the other NL wild-card team was a more likely scenario that a division title for the Braves.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been asked repeatedly in the past two weeks whether he’d decided how he might line up his pitching if the Braves advanced to the postseason, and repeatedly answered he hadn’t gotten that far and was focused on trying to win to make sure the Braves played beyond the regular season.
On Wednesday, Gonzalez said for the first time that he would pick Kris Medlen or veteran Tim Hudson — not exactly a surprise — to start a potential first postseason game, or presumably a do-or-die game against Washington in the unlikely event the Braves and Nationals end up tied after the regular season.
If the Braves and Nats tied, they’d play a tiebreaker game Thursday, Oct. 4, to determine the division title. The loser of that would almost certainly be a wild-card team — the Braves led the wild-card standings by 6-1/2 games over St. Louis before Wednesday – and play an Oct. 5 game against the other NL wild card.
The wild-card winner would then advance to a division series against the division winner with the best record starting Oct. 7.
The more probable scenario would have the Braves finished the season as the first-place wild card team and hosting the second-place wild card in the “play-in” game Oct. 5, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five division series against the division winner with the best record.
Gonzalez said he and pitching coach Roger McDowell had discussions and would have more this weekend, and could “tweak” the rotation after the weekend series at Philadelphia. The Braves have an off day Thursday, then will stick with their regular rotation order against the Phillies, with Tommy Hanson starting Friday’s series opener, followed by Mike Minor and Hudson.
After another off day Monday, Paul Maholm would be in line to start Tuesday’s home-series opener against Miami, followed by Medlen. But if Gonzalez flip-flopped Medlen and Maholm, it would put Medlen on schedule to start on regular rest on Sept. 30 against the Mets and in the potential Oct. 5 wild-card game.
Gonzalez didn’t get into specifics, other than saying he wouldn’t make any major changes that would push any pitcher more than a day or two beyond his usual between-starts rest.
Chipper Farewell Tour continues
The Marlins paid tribute to Chipper Jones before Wednesday’s series finale, when Miami shortstop Jose Reyes gave the retiring third baseman a big hug and a gift of fly-fishing equipment in a ceremony at home plate. The avid outdoorsman does plenty of fishing, but Jones hasn’t tried fly-fishing and said he’d always wanted to try it when the Marlins contacted the Braves to find out his interests.
In the third inning, Jones singled to left field to tie Lou Gehrig for 58th place on the career hits list with 2,721.